Managing the Paper Load
By Annie Tarbox and Todd Harper
As we approach the busiest time of the semester, here are a few suggestions to make student paper loads less difficult to manage.
Encourage student peer-editing and self-assessment of drafts. Students are often their own best audience for determining whether or not they are effectively communicating the arguments and concepts of the course. Revised papers will most likely need less commentary.
Ask students to identify for you the strengths and weaknesses of their papers. This encourages self-reflection and provides you with context as you comment.
Use your comments as tools to help students formulate arguments and learn concepts, rather than simply for justifying grades. In general, students will be able to use your advice as they learn to assess their own writing. This may not necessarily save you time in responding, but it will put that time to more practical use in meeting your course goals.
Do not feel as though you must mark every minor mistake. Marking every error may overwhelm both you and your students. You'll save time and your students will see your advice as truly helpful.
Choose a comfortable spot and time to assess student writing. Don’t make assessment any more difficult than it needs to be. Perhaps, read student essays a few at a time. Remember, your comfort level will often affect the things you comment on and the way that you comment on them.
Feel free to “pass” on a particular essay and come back to it later. There is no paper-grading game-show rule that says you have to read each essay as you come to it in a pile.
If you do most
of your own composing on the computer, consider responding to your students’
essays on computer as well. Try writing a “response letter” to the student
that deals with global concerns in his or her essay.
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